The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.
Air traffic controllers avert collision at Ben Gurion Airport
Air traffic controllers at Ben Gurion Airport avert disaster when a Turkish flight comes to a halt on a runway assigned to an incoming EasyJet plane.
Following the unauthorized actions of the Turkish plane, the EasyJet flight is ordered to abort its landing midway, Channel 10 reports.
There were no injuries in the incident.
AG hearing for MK Ghattas set for tomorrow
Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas will appear at a hearing before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit tomorrow morning, ahead of a decision on whether to indict him for allegedly passing contraband cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.
Mandelblit says he will file the indictment against Ghattas depending on the outcome of the hearing, Israel National News reports.
Disney dumps YouTube star PewDiePie over anti-Semitic videos
Disney cut ties with YouTube’s most watched blogger PewDiePie for posting several videos containing anti-Semitic remarks and Nazi references, the Wall Street Journal says.
The 27-year-old Swede, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, is known for posting humorous clips to his more than 53 million followers on YouTube.
“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” a spokeswoman for Maker Studios, the Disney division that had partnered with PewDiePie, tells the Journal.
PewDiePie, who had editorial independence under the terms of the arrangement with Disney, reportedly paid two Indian men five dollars to hold the banner reading “Death to all Jews” while they laugh and dance in the January 11 video.
“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online,” Kjellberg said in a Tumblr blog post on February 12.
“I picked something that seemed absurd to me — that people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars,” referring to a website that helps freelancers receive part time work.
The Journal said PewDiePie had posted nine videos that display anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi references since August.
Ex-Likud minister Gideon Saar says he’ll return to politics
Former minister Gideon Saar says he will return to politics within the Likud party, more than two years after he took a hiatus from public life.
“I don’t know when it will happen. I will announce it at a time suitable for the Likud movement,” Saar tells a conference in Jerusalem, Channel 2 reports.
Saar notes the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged corruption, which he says are painful for the country.
“It pains every Israeli citizen when the prime minister is investigated, and as someone who worked with him, it hurts a little more still,” he says.
Half-brother of N. Korean leader assassinated in Malaysia — report
The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been assassinated in Malaysia, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
The agency quotes a Seoul government source as saying Kim Jong-Nam was killed yesterday. The source gives no further details.
The 45-year-old was poisoned by two unidentified female agents using poisoned needles at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, according to South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun.
The report, citing what it called multiple government sources, says the two women hailed a cab and fled immediately afterwards.
Rabbis, Holocaust survivors decry use of ‘kapo’ by Trump nominee
Letters to the Senate from hundreds of rabbis and cantors, dozens of Holocaust survivors, and scholars say the abuse of the term “kapo” by David Friedman, US President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, should be a factor in considering his confirmation.
An array of liberal Jewish groups organized the three separate letters this week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: One from rabbis and cantors, one from Holocaust survivors, and one from Holocaust scholars. The letters will be delivered to senators on the committee before Friedman’s confirmation hearing commences on Thursday.
The letter from the rabbis and the cantors, which so far has accrued more than 600 signatures from clergy of all streams, and the letter from 31 Holocaust survivors urge the committee to reject Friedman.
The letter from 29 Holocaust scholars – including a handful not based in the United States – stops short of a call to reject him, but says: “We hope that you will keep Mr. Friedman’s disrespectful and politically cynical use of the Holocaust in mind as you consider his nomination to serve as our ambassador to Israel.”
Each of the letters focuses principally on Friedman’s use of the term “kapo” to attack J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle Eastern policy group.
The survivors call Friedman’s use of the term “slanderous, insulting, irresponsible, cynical and immensely damaging to our people.” The rabbis call it the “very antithesis of the diplomatic behavior Americans expect from their ambassadors.”
Conway says situation with Flynn was ‘unsustainable’
Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway says Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser because he misled Vice President Mike Pence, telling NBC’s “Today” show that “the situation became unsustainable.”
Late last month, the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn could be in a compromised position because of contradictions between the public depictions of US phone calls with foreign officials and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on recordings of the conversations.
Conway says it is true Trump was “loyal” to Flynn, but adds that, “Misleading the vice president really was the key here.”
Report: Israel withdrew Egypt envoy over security fears
Israel quietly removed its ambassador to Egypt at the end of 2016 over security concerns, a British newspaper reports.
According to the Telegraph, David Govrin is now based in Jerusalem, but the government hopes to send him back to Cairo in the near future.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem declined to comment to The Times of Israel on the report.
UCLA student newspaper under fire for anti-Semitic cartoon
Civic and campus organizations, among them a pro-Palestinian student group, strongly condemn a cartoon called anti-Semitic that was published in the University of California–Los Angeles student newspaper.
The cartoon published yesterday in UCLA’s Daily Bruin shows Netanyahu standing in front of two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. However, in the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” the word “not” has been crossed out in red.
Pointing to another commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” labeled as the seventh by the cartoonist, Netanyahu shrugs his shoulders and says, “#7 is next.”
In the upper left corner of the cartoon, the legend reads: “Israel passes law legalizing seizing any Palestinian land.”
The cartoonist, Felipe Bris Abejon, is an undergraduate student in political science, who last year served as education and resources director of the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, a strongly anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian national student group.
In a letter to the Daily Bruin, the SJP board at UCLA condemns the cartoon, stating that Abejon is currently not an SPJ member.
On Facebook and in letters to the editor, most critics of the cartoon argue that by involving the sacred Tablets of the Law, the cartoonist crossed the line from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.
Tanner Walters, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, points to an editorial lapse of judgment. “This was a mistake that should have been caught at any point in the process, and it didn’t get caught,” Walters says.
Hamas: New Gaza chief backs Palestinian unity government
A senior Hamas leader says the terror group’s newly elected Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar is in favor of a Palestinian unity government.
In the first public confirmation of Sinwar’s election, Salah al Bardawil also says Sinwar will continue to respect Hamas’s relations with Egypt.
“Sinwar believes in national unity, relations with the [Palestinian] factions no less than his predecessor… He is also an Arab man who wishes the best for his Arab neighbors, especially Egypt,” Bardawil tells Hamas’s Al Aqsa News.
Sinwar, a convicted murderer on the US terrorism blacklist, who was jailed in Israel before being released in a prisoner swap, is considered to be an uncompromising radical even within the Gaza-based terror group. He is also thought to be close to Iran, and in contradiction to Hamas’s policy over recent years, reportedly prefers the backing of the Shiite power rather than the Sunni alliance of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
— Dov Lieber
Investigators checking if collapsed crane was improperly secured
Investigators are looking into whether a crane that collapsed in Bat Yam yesterday, injuring three adults and a 9-year-old girl, was improperly secured to the ground in a bid to save money.
According to Ynet, investigators are exploring whether the contractor skimped on iron and concrete used in the foundations of the crane, leading to it toppling onto a residential street.
BDS activists target Israel’s UN envoy at Columbia speech
Activists from the movement to boycott Israel disrupted a speech by UN ambassador Danny Danon at Columbia University in New York last night.
Around 100 activists entered the lecture theater shouting slogans such as “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” and “Israel is a terror state,” as Danon addressed some 300 students, Ynet reports.
Danon responded by inviting the protesters to remain and listen to his words. “Instead of inciting and lying, pull up chairs and maybe you’ll learn something,” he said.
Judge says challenge to Trump travel ban can proceed in lower court
A US federal judge in Seattle rules that a lawsuit by Washington state and Minnesota challenging Trump’s travel ban can proceed, even as an appellate court considers a preliminary injunction in the case.
The Justice Department wanted to put the case on hold while the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether a larger, 11-judge panel will review a government request to allow the ban.
But District Judge James Robart, who previously issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban, says the lawsuit can go forward. The states say the process will not interfere with review by appellate courts.
Robart directs both sides to prepare for their arguments on whether Trump’s travel ban should be permanently blocked.
Trump slams ‘illegal leaks’ after key aide forced out
Donald Trump lashes out at “illegal leaks” as the embattled president loses a key national security aide who stands accused of improper contact with the Russian government.
As his administration tries to draw a line under long-running suspicions of collusion with the Kremlin, Trump issues a Twitter missive.
“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Trump says. “Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?”
Since Trump came to office leaks from within the White House have increased exponentially as rival power centers battle for power.
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
Shin Bet confirms Egypt envoy now situated in Israel
The Shin Bet security service confirms a British media report that Israeli Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin and his staff are now stationed in Jerusalem, out of fears for their safety.
“Due to security considerations, the return to Cairo of the Foreign Ministry’s embassy staff was restricted,” the agency says in a statement, without elaborating.
— Judah Ari Gross
J Street: PM, Trump don’t have to say ‘two states’ to be pro-peace
Netanyahu and Trump do not necessarily have to utter the words “two-state solution” or “Palestinian state” during tomorrow’s White House meeting in order to send out a pro-peace message, the head of the dovish US Jewish group J-Street says.
“These words are not magical,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami. “The end result that J Street is for is that the State of Israel should have borders and that those borders be recognized by its neighbors and by the world… We do believe that there should be a Palestinian state and relations between the State of Israel and all the states around it,” but it is not absolutely necessary for Trump and Netanyahu to pledge allegiance to a “two-state solution,” he says.
Ben-Ami also attacks the designated ambassador to Israel, Trump’s pro-settlement lawyer David Friedman, for policy views that “are outside the views of 50 years of American administrations from both parties.”
Friedman, he says, has a “temperament and disposition [that] are entirely unsuited for the position of ambassador, where diplomacy is a requirement.”
The nominee, whose Senate confirmation hearings are scheduled for Thursday, once called members of J Street “worse than kapos.”
— Raphael Ahren
Jewish Home minister to Trump: Let PM bring Pollard to Israel
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) appeals to Trump to allow Netanyahu to bring convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard back with him when he returns from his meeting with the president in Washington.
“Grant the prime minister the option of bringing one more passenger on his plane — Mr. Pollard,” Ariel says during a speech at a conference in Jerusalem.
Channel 2 said yesterday that Netanyahu is set to ask Trump to allow Pollard to leave the US, which he is currently unable to do under the terms of his parole.
Pollard, who was freed from jail last November after serving 30 years of a life sentence, is required to remain in the US for five years, despite his desire to move to Israel.
Paul Ryan calls Flynn resignation the ‘right decision’
US House Speaker Paul Ryan says Trump made the “right decision” in requesting that his national security adviser resign over his alleged contacts with Russia before the inauguration.
“I think the president made the right decision to ask for his resignation,” the high-ranking Republican tells reporters, according to CNBC.
“As soon as they realized they were being misled by the national security adviser, they asked for his resignation,” Ryan says.
Jewish Democrats co-sponsor bill requiring Bannon’s ouster from NSC
At least 14 Jewish Democrats are among the sponsors of a bill in the US House of Representatives that would force Trump to remove Stephen Bannon from the National Security Council.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and one of the co-sponsors, cites charges that Bannon has been associated with anti-Semitism as one of the reasons she is backing the bill.
“Let me be clear: Mr. #Bannon is woefully unqualified to serve as a White House official, let alone on the #NSC or the Principals Committee,” Lowey posts on Twitter. “As Chairman of Breitbart, Mr. Bannon espoused right-wing, anti-Semitic, & xenophobic views that aren’t in line with American values.”
As Chairman of Breitbart, Mr. Bannon espoused right-wing, anti-Semitic, & xenophobic views that aren’t in line with American values.
— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) February 13, 2017
As of yesterday, the congressional bill tracking website showed 113 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, including 13 of the 20 Jewish Democrats in the House. With no Republicans backing it, the bill has little chance of advancing.
Other senior Jewish members co-sponsoring the bill include Reps. Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, Steve Cohen, Ted Deutch, and Jerrold Nadler.
Report: Russian ‘spy ship’ spotted off US coast
Fox News quotes two US officials as saying that a Russian “spy ship” has been seen off the east coast of the United States, some 70 miles (112 kilometers) from Delaware.
According to the report, one of the officials says the boat “is not a huge concern, but we are keeping our eyes on it.”
According to an American official, the same boat was last seen close to the US in April 2015. Another official tells Fox that the vessel has the ability to “intercept communications or signals.”
The report says that the ship has surface-to-air missiles on board.
3 members of defense establishment held over sexual abuse of minors
Police arrest three members of the defense establishment on suspicion of carrying out sexual offenses against underage girls, Channel 10 says.
One of the three, who works for a sensitive branch of the security services, will appear in court for a remand hearing tomorrow.
The other two — both soldiers, one serving in the Defense Ministry and the other working with classified information — are under house arrest.
NYT: US says Russia secretly deployed missile that violates arms treaty
White House officials say Russia has covertly deployed a cruise missile that violates a 1987 arms control treaty that helped to bring about the end of the Cold War, the New York Times reports.
According to the report, former president Barack Obama said in 2014 that the missile — then its test phase — was in breach of the treaty, and sought to persuade Russia to “correct the violation.”
However, the paper says, Moscow pushed ahead with the missile and is now in possession of “a fully operational unit.”
The paper speculates that deploying the missiles “could also increase the military threat to NATO nations.” It quotes former NATO commander Gen. Philip M. Breedlove as saying that such “a militarily significant development” cannot “go unanswered.”
YouTube joins Disney in dropping PewDiePie over anti-Semitic videos
YouTube is canceling the reality show of its biggest star over anti-Semitic videos he posted on the website, Variety says. The report comes hours after Disney also cut ties with with 27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, better known online as PewDiePie, over the videos.
“We’ve decided to cancel the release of ‘Scare PewDiePie’ season 2 and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred,” a YouTube spokesman says, according to Variety. Google Preferred is a system that offers advertisers “easy-to-buy packages” on endorsed content.
In a January 11 video, PewDiePie — who has 53 million followers on YouTube — reportedly paid two Indian men five dollars to hold a banner reading “Death to all Jews” while they laugh and dance.
“I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online,” Kjellberg said in a Tumblr blog post on February 12.
“I picked something that seemed absurd to me — that people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars,” referring to a Tel Aviv-based website that helps freelancers receive part time work.
— AFP contributed to this report
IDF: Errant fire from Syria hits Golan, no injuries
The IDF says a short while ago its troops identified errant fire — most likely from Syria — that hit an open area in the northern Golan Heights.
No injuries are reported.
Stray projectiles from the fighting in neighboring Syria sporadically hits the Golan.
— Judah Ari Gross
Lebanon PM stands firm on Assad ‘crimes’
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he stands firm against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “crimes,” at an event marking the anniversary of his father’s assassination that he has blamed on Damascus.
Hariri, whose father Rafiq Hariri was killed along with 22 other people in a February 15, 2005, bomb blast on the Beirut seafront, was appointed prime minister in November for a second time, under an arrangement struck with the pro-Syrian Shiite group Hezbollah.
“We negotiated and we made compromises to preserve stability” in Lebanon, Hariri tells a packed hall in Beirut.
“We have not made, and will not make, any compromise on principles such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, on our point of view on Assad’s regime, our stand on illegitimate arms and on Hezbollah’s implication in Syria,” he says to loud applause.
The Hague-based tribunal is responsible for trying Rafiq Hariri’s assassination.
Man convicted of killing Etan Patz, NY boy missing since 1979
A former store clerk is convicted of murder in one of America’s most haunting missing-child cases, nearly 38 years after 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on the way to his school bus stop in Manhattan.
Pedro Hernandez shows no reaction as jurors deliver their verdict. Hernandez, who once worked in a convenience store in the Jewish boy’s neighborhood, had confessed, but his lawyers said his admissions were the false imaginings of a mentally ill man.
This time, the jury deliberated over nine days before finding Hernandez, 56, guilty of murder during a kidnapping in a case that shaped both parenting and law enforcement practices in the United States.
The Patz family and authorities may never know exactly what became of the boy. No trace of him has been found since the May day he vanished, on the first day he got the grown-up privilege of walking alone to the bus stop about two blocks away in a then-edgy but neighborly part of lower Manhattan.
Catherine II steals the show at Ramat Gan diamond fair
A replica of Russian Queen Catherine the Great’s imperial crown steals the show at this week’s Israeli diamond market in Ramat Gan, as the industry eyes a recovery.
Set with 11,352 diamonds, Catherine II’s crown takes pride of place at the entrance to an enormous hall on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, as hundreds of dealers from 30 countries strike deals at Israel’s sixth International Diamond Week.
Israel is one of the world’s largest trading centers for rough and cut diamonds, rivaling Antwerp in Belgium and Mumbai in India.
The sparkling crown made of pearls and diamonds of more than 1,900 carats is on sale for the “modest sum” of $20 million, says Dmitry Moiseev of the Russian diamond group Kristall Smolensk that owns it.
“Contacts with buyers have been established and we are hopeful,” he says.
Conway says Flynn quit because he’d become ‘lightning rod’
The storm over national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia made his situation “unsustainable,” prompting him to resign less than a month into the new administration, a top Trump aide says.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway tells NBC’s “Today” show that Flynn “knew he’d become a lightning rod” and made the decision to resign. Conway’s comments come one day after she said the president had “full confidence” in Flynn.
Flynn’s ouster appeared to be driven more by the idea that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials than by the content of his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to the US. Still, the matter deepened questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia.
Trump, Netanyahu to hold joint press conference tomorrow
The White House says Netanyahu and Trump will hold a joint press conference tomorrow in Washington.
The two are having their first talks since Trump was elected president last November, a meeting that was widely anticipated in Israel.
The paper does not specify whether the press conference will take place before or after their meeting.
Spicer: Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine
White House press secretary Sean Spicer says President Trump made it clear he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine, three years after Moscow seized the peninsula.
“President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea,” Spicer tells reporters at the White House daily press briefing, according to Reuters.
“At the same time, he fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia,” Spicer says, a day after Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned over his connections to Moscow.
Senate introduces bill to honor soldier who protected Jewish POWs
A bipartisan bill in the Senate aims to honor a US prisoner of war who protected 200 American-Jewish POWs during World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal.
The bill would recognize Master Sgt. Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds, who refused to reveal to a German commandant at the Stalag IXA camp which troops under his command were Jewish. The Congressional Gold medal is one of the highest civilian honors bestowed in the United States.
Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Tennessee Republicans, and Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland and Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced the measure.
Edmonds was captured during the Battle of the Bulge by the German army on December 19, 1944. As the highest ranking officer in the POW camp, he was responsible for the camp’s 1,292 American POWs. The camp’s commandant ordered Edmonds to identify the Jewish soldiers in order to separate them from the other prisoners. When Edmonds refused, the commandant placed his pistol against Edmonds’ head, demanding that he identify the Jewish soldiers. Edmonds responded, “We are all Jews here,” refusing to identify the Jewish soldiers, thereby saving their lives.
Surviving 100 days of captivity, Edmonds returned home after the war, but never told his family of his actions. He died in 1985, and only long after was first recognized for his heroic actions.
Ethics office recommends Conway investigation over Ivanka plug
The US government’s ethics watchdog is recommending that the White House investigate and possibly discipline President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway.
In a letter made public, the Office of Government Ethics writes to White House attorneys that there’s reason to believe that Conway violated the standards of ethical conduct for executive employees by endorsing Ivanka Trump’s fashion line during a television interview last week.
The letter notes lawyers for the White House and OGE spoke on Feb. 9 — the day of Conway’s interview — and that the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee asked OGE to follow up.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week that Conway has been “counseled,” but the OGE said it has yet to receive any guidance on what if anything happened as a corrective action. The OGE is requesting that White House lawyers tell them in writing by Feb. 28 what they’ve done about the matter.